Don’t Pity Me, or, Why You Need a Paperback

As some of you know, because I whined about it really loud, I had a technical glitch put a few bumps in my launch last week. (The Kindle store lost my book on day 3, right as the algorithms started kicking in. They didn’t fully resolve it until day 7. We don’t need to relive it.) I was cranky and I was whiny and I was annoying. Seriously.

In the meanwhile, I don’t pay much attention to paperback sales. For one thing, that’s still tradpub’s territory; indies mostly rise or fall on ebook sales. For another, the picture of my cover that CreateSpace gave Amazon is blurry and awful and in my opinion kind of screams SELF PUBLISHED. I asked them if they could do better, and they said no. Hey, I appreciate their honesty. And finally, I have a few friends who still read paper books (can you imagine?) so I knew I’d get a bump there at launch that wouldn’t last.

So long story slightly less long, I didn’t check my paperback sales all day today, despite the obsessive way I check the Kindle sales graph. Do you remember the Seinfeld where George’s father was selling something out of his garage and the one guy would ring the bell every time he got a sale? My husband keeps threatening to get me a bell, is how often I check the KDP graph. But I check in with CreateSpace maybe every other day, at most. I didn’t really notice that the paperback–which was not affected by the glitch–did a small but steady business throughout my launch. Today I sold a couple more. And as of 8:28 EST it’s got a 15k sales rank, it’s the #59 best seller in dark fantasy, and the #17 hot new release in dark fantasy. Not incredible numbers, no, but not bad for a first book from a total unknown, either.

This isn’t a major victory: it’s not a very big category, and it won’t last. Books in the print store yo-yo in the rankings with alarming speed. By the time you read this I’ll probably have a sales rank of 225,000 again and you’ll think I made the whole thing up. And none of it shows at all from the ebook side.

But for the short time it does last, that’s maybe a few more eyeballs on my book, which could potentially bring more attention to the ebook as well. Which brings me to the portion of this post that is not about me. I know right?

I considered not doing a paperback version at all, at least not at the same time I released the ebook. From what I see around forums and blogs and such, that’s a pretty popular sentiment. Launches are busy, CreateSpace is a headache in many ways, and most people’s paperback sales are what, 5% of their total sales? It doesn’t always seem worth it.

But you should still do one. Because you never know. This seems unlikely to have a big effect on the overall success of my book, but who wouldn’t take any boost they can get, right?

(Also I feel guilty because I’ve been crying on Marcia’s shoulder so much, when all the while there was a bright side that I was completely ignoring.)

9 thoughts on “Don’t Pity Me, or, Why You Need a Paperback

  1. Wow! That is so cool! I’d say that my paperback sales are more like 0.05% of my ebook sales, so to hit 15,000 in Amazon’s book listings is pretty awesome! You might just stick there and become a paperback seller!

    (Okay, way too many exclamation points, but I find it astonishing when people actually make a profit on createspace books.)

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  2. That’s great, Jen, congratulations! You never know when someone will prefer paperback. Sometimes I hem and haw about doing them because sales are so few and far between, but they’re great for Goodreads and other giveaways. I’ve also actually taken to selling them signed on my site because a lot of people I know in my general neighborhood prefer paperbacks.

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  3. Terrific news, Jen! I’m so glad you got that boost! You needed it after the screw-up you suffered. And you were NOT annoying. I was actually annoyed on your behalf, because I hate to see someone pay for mistakes that aren’t their fault. And it’s hard enough for writers to make good progress in self-marketing as it is, without amazon turning things upside down.

    Now as for the part of your post that wasn’t about you (hahaha…I laughed when I read that), I think it is absolutely essential (at least for me) to give readers the option of a paperback. And it makes good dollars and cents sense, too. There are still readers out there who don’t have or want eReaders. Don’t you want them to buy your books, too? (Not YOU, personally, of course.) And share them with their friends and neighbors, so your name recognition grows? I do. Plus, what do you take with you to book signings? I’m going to my first in January. Why would I go without books to sign?

    I have several small gift shops in central Florida that want to offer my book to sell. Will it sell millions? Thousands? A couple dozen? I don’t care. If it’s there on display, and the occasional shopper is intrigued and buys it, I could have a fan who goes online and searches out what else I’ve done. They call it building your tribe, and you do it one reader at a time.

    Finally, here’s the one that might mean the most to me. I want a copy of my own book on my library bookshelf. It’s my Validation Shelf, and it lifts my spirits every single time I look at it. “There. I did that. I created that. It’s mine, and no one can ever take it from me.” That’s a helluva feeling. Not to mention that I love giving signed copies of my books to my family members and friends at Christmas or for birthdays.

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    • By the way, I don’t think your eBook cover looks unprofessional. It looks like they used the wrong resolution, and reflects more on amazon than on your book. But that’s just me. I know you want ALL readers to see it as sharp as it is, so maybe you can upload a better quality image? Can you get a decent .jpg and do that yourself?

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  4. Thanks guys! As expected, it had dropped back into obscurity by morning, but anything that boosts your visibility, even for a little while, is a good thing.

    Marcia- it’s the paperback cover that’s the problem, and I can’t do anything with that or upload a new one. That’s all between CreateSpace and Amazon.

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    • That’s actually the one I was looking at, Jen. It just shows up slightly blurry on the website. But do you mean the actual book looks blurry, and not just the online image? And I forget, why can’t you get them to fix it? Is it just their uploaded image that you don’t like, or is there an actual problem in translating your graphic to print? (Just trying to figure out the actual issue, here, sorry for sounding obtuse.)

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      • Nope, it’s just the image on the product page. Looks to me like they sized it wrong and that screwed up the resolution, but I’m not sure. Amazon gets that image direct from CreateSpace and CS says that’s the best they can do. I emailed Amazon yesterday, actually, and asked if they couldn’t just use my image (the one on the Kindle product page) for both, since both editions have the same cover.

        I don’t expect a lot of people to be viewing my paperback but as the other day showed, you never know, and besides it just drives me nuts to have that blurry image there when I have such a nice sharp one they could be using instead.

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        • Createspace/Amazon seems to like making the paperback cover image ugly in their store. I also used the same file for both, and the paperback cover on Amazon looks subtly muted. But I just sigh and move on — I’ve never moved 15 copies of one title in paperback form either, so for me, it’s not worth worrying over. đŸ™‚

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  5. Just a quick update so I’m not giving out misinformation. Apparently CreateSpace puts a royalty on your report when the book is printed, not when it’s sold, which means there can be a lag between when Amazon sells the book and when you see the sale on CS. I just had a flood of paperback sales (“flood” for me=15 copies,might as well be transparent with my numbers :)) show up on my CS report, which I’m guessing were the cause of the sales rank spike a few days ago. It’s back down in the 100,000’s now and, of course, falling.

    Point being, it did take a fairly big (again, for me) sales spike to get that high (high for me). And of course there’s no sustaining that–the algorithm rewards steady sales a lot more than temporary spikes.

    I have no idea who these people are who all bought my paperback at once on a Monday. I don’t have that many friends.

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